MS sufferer in cannabis trial tries to kill herself

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The Independent Online

A multiple sclerosis sufferer who has campaigned for the right to use cannabis was in hospital yesterday after taking a suspected overdose on the day her trial for supplying the drug was abandoned because of her failing health.

Elizabeth Ivol, 55, known as Biz, faced charges of supplying cannabis to other MS sufferers but the court was told yesterday that she was no longer fit to stand trial. The Procurator Fiscal, Sue Foard, accepted the findings of the doctor's report and said to continue the case would be inappropriate.

Ms Ivol was in a stable condition last night after being found unconscious in her home on the Orkney island of South Ronaldsay by supporters from the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, who had travelled to the island to convince her not to kill herself.

The wheelchair-bound campaigner was charged with distributing, possessing and producing cannabis. She said publicly that she intended to take her life once the trial was over, regardless of the outcome, as a final protest against the law stopping MS sufferers using the drug to alleviate pain. For years, she has fought for the class B drug to be legalised for medical use and openly made cannabis chocolate for herself and fellow sufferers.

But last August her home was raided by police and her cannabis plants, computer and address book were seized. During her trial, which began two weeks ago, Ms Ivol admitted making cannabis-laced chocolates, which were sent to people with MS, but said she did not think she was doing anything wrong. She said she took the drug to numb a condition that was like having "barbed wire going through my spine.

"I have muscle spasms and my eyesight's failing, but it has not gone yet. It is very, very painful," Ms Ivol, who was diagnosed with the incurable disease in the early 1990s, told Kirkwall Sheriff Court. During the trial, which was held at the leisure centre to allow access to her wheelchair, she said she tried medication suggested by her doctor but that some drugs had "horrific" side-effects.

"It was either cannabis or nothing. I tried everything else and nothing worked," she said. Ms Ivol said she had resisted using cannabis because of the stigma surrounding the drug, but eventually began smoking one joint each evening.

After finding it was the only way to control her condition, Ms Ivol made what she called "special Belgian chocolates" to help a non-smoking MS sufferer. She even developed a formula for cannabis patches that can be applied to the skin.

Yesterday, hours before she was found unconscious, Ms Ivol told BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland that she was disappointed not to be able to use the trial to campaign for legalising medical cannabis. She said she would make a final protest by overdosing on painkillers.

"I will get stoned before I do it and then I will go to sleep. Then it will be over and done with and someone else can take over from me - I'm tired."

* The use of cannabis by adolescents is threatening their mental health, a leading psychiatrist has warned.

Professor Robin Murray, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, said a study of 4,000 Dutch people suggested that cannabis users were seven times more likely to develop mental problems. He said the drug might interact with a genetic weakness in some people to trigger mental problems.

Meanwhile, the annual conference of the British Medical Association in Torquay rejected by a large majority calls for cannabis to be legalised.